Judas the PlayStation 4 is finally dead!

It’s official.
My old PS4 is dead.
D. E. A. D.
Dead.

But honestly? After the damned thing cost me internet overages on no fewer than 18 separate billing cycles by unpausing my paused game update files at 4 in the morning while I slept and couldn’t stop it, I had already named it “Judas”. In a not so weird way, I’m glad the bitch is finally dead – I’d only tried booting it up at all to watch a blu-ray after leaving it unplugged for almost a year. Very not worth it to me to buy a new one. So tomorrow I’ll be holding a funeral for Judas the PlayStation.

It’ll be a viking funeral – I can’t wait to set this little motherfucker on fire!

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Just a crying shame I can’t take it out THIS way.

And before you bring up the obvious “solution” (turning off auto-updates), let me first be sarcastic at you: I’ve owned Judas since six months after the PS4’s launch. No, turning off auto-updates had never once fucking occurred to me.

I exhausted every option available to me in my multi-year quest to fix this damn thing. I did it all. Eventually, I even unsubscribed from PS+. Not for performance issues, mind, but because my online friends began to stop playing co-op with me altogether and simultaneous with these events, the free monthly games selection began to routinely suck ass.

But none of that appeased Judas.

Judas’ constant insatiable hunger for updates never stopped or slowed. If I ever agreed to download something, Judas wouldn’t rest until it was done, so I just unplugged it when I wasn’t using it (it would even turn itself back on –cold boot itself– otherwise!), and I eventually stopped using it completely. After that, it just sat in a closet corner with a sheet covering it like some horrible forgotten thing for the better part of 2016, only being awakened once during that span to blitz through Uncharted 4 (of which I am honestly not a fan, which I never thought I’d say about a Naughty Dog game).

Meanwhile, my PlayStation Vita has never once had betrayal on its mind, and my Xbox One has never lifted a metaphorical finger to do ANYTHING without my express permission in each instance. And so far, my PC has behaved itself, barring a crazy amount of updates after the initial startup, which honestly I’d expected to happen anyways.

Judas was just pure evil in console form, and after Sony botching the releases of their various Xperia phones in America during that long but critical period where people like me still cared about that brand, their MASSIVE customer service fuck up regarding my Vaio laptop some years before (they refused to repair it despite it being under warranty and made me send it to Best Buy, who broke it even worse. Twice in a fucking row.), and their willful abortion of the Vita before they’d even seriously tried to help it succeed (they gave up entirely after what, two years?), this string of betrayals by Judas was the thing that finally and fully axe-murdered my prior obsessive fanboyish love of Sony products beyond hope of redemption.

Sony done screwed up, and after all this time, I firmly believe they have no one to blame but themselves.

And Judas.

Fuck you very much, my old friend.

 

I hope you’re happy Gaben

Oh hey, two posts in one day! Both about nostalgia!
It’s like I’m on a roll or something.
Well, I may as well get to the point.

All these years later and I’m still mad that the Half-Life series killed the SiN franchise.
And now it looks like neither story will ever be finished. SiN Episodes: Emergence ends on a cliffhanger, and guess what? So does Half-Life 2: Episode 2. Ironic that the two franchises who set out to reinvent shooters forever will never actually tell the ends of their stories. While I have largely come to peace with the fact that Half-Life 2: Episode 3
and Half-Life 3 will never happen, I’m still furious that it had to take SiN Episodes down with it — it was fun as hell and seemed like it was building up to something epic, and the silly 90’s action hero cyberpunk angle of the SiN franchise was hard to beat, and still is impossible to find a decent surrogate for.

I hope you’re happy, Gaben.

You killed the most innovative shooters of our times.

Can we get a do-over?

In memory of an aborted but promising franchise taken from us too soon, have a trailer.

FUCK I’m mad about losing this series.

Goddamn I miss the 1.0 Internet

So I was touring the old Space Jam website (as I occasionally do) and reliving a whole bunch of childhood, when I stumble onto some missing bits that just dead end.

..No. I wanted to keep going, you monsters!

And while the nostalgia is utterly lost on people who were either too young or didn’t have internet at all in the 1990’s, well… web design kind of sucked by modern standards. But we made it work, and while the end results were about as pretty as the mugshot for the Frankenstein Creature, the fact that it worked at all was kind of sexy. These were the days of Geocities, Tripod, and Angelfire. MySpace wasn’t around to be a meme yet, and above all, America Online seemed like it ruled all. Furthermore, we ALL had dial up (Only folks like Bill Gates and co. could afford broadband in those days, or at least it seemed that way), which was accompanied by the most delightful noise to ever grace your eardrums. We didn’t have Facebook groups, we had fanlistings and fansites (most of which were hosted on the aforementioned Geocities, Tripod, or Angelfire), and you were a trailblazer if you had one. The opening of Friendster heralded the beginning of the Social Media Era, and all the cool kids were using it, and neither Apple nor Google had yet taken over the effing world. Indeed, Google was barely getting started by the close of the 1.0 era.

And I guess most importantly about the Internet 1.0 era was that it was, apparently, NOT “the internet” but “the world wide web”. Oh, and everything felt like it broke every half hour.

That too.

But despite all the troubles that came with it and the frustrations of the limitations of the technology, I miss it a lot.

Not because it was in any way better than what we have now (BY NO MEANS), but because it all still felt infinite, especially to those of us who were kids at the time, and like the best was yet to come.

Now, in more ways than one, it feels sort of like we’re rapidly approaching the end of the internet.

Not literally of course. But the wild west anything-is-possible feel of the digital frontier is now very greatly diminished, and I miss when we had it in abundance.

That’s all.

Adventures in introversion!

I have a friend, and we’ll call her “Kay”.

Kay travels a LOT. I mean a LOT. Every week, she’s telling me about some new adventure she’s had in some place like Germany, Japan, Italy, etc.

For some reason, she assumes that because she leads a very jet-setting lifestyle that her friends have something similar.

She’s always asking about “my latest adventures”.

I barely leave my house unless it’s for reasons of practicality.

I like people, or at least the idea of them.

It’s the reality I have trouble with.

I am an introvert of a very high degree, and some of it I come by honestly, other bits are learned.

But I have adventures.

Oh boy I have adventures.

I stood by the side Paul Mua’dib on the sands of the planet Arrakis as he launched an insurrection that tore down a galactic empire. I traveled with the Fellowship of the Ring to the bitter end and watched as my friends were pushed to their limits by evil. I sang onstage with Freddy Mercury and David Bowie, traveled the universe with the crew of the Normandy, and helped guide Master Chief to victory against the Flood. I have taken part in the Napoleonic wars, fought Nazis behind enemy lines, stopped Jihadi terrorist plots, healed the sick in Skyrim, and assassinated corrupt politicians. I’ve fought Dracula and the Grim Reaper to a standstill, seen heroes rise from unlikely places to confront extraordinary evil, and I have witnessed acts of redemption from men of great evil. I have fallen in love with people who hail from planets with names most would struggle to pronounce, and been a witness to history; and not just one history — I’ve seen things that could have been and returned home to tell the tale. Not all of these adventures involved a Tardis, but one may have been involved in a few.

I’ve also stepped outside my actual door and sprained an ankle for my trouble.

These are the adventures in introversion. We have had adventures that no place on Earth could hope to match.

Although we would enjoy a trip to Disney World as well, were it offered.

I’m also waiting for the Tardis to come back.

So, Kay, keep up your jetsetting life. You clearly enjoy  it. I jetset too, but in my own way.

Because my adventures in introversion are just getting started.

Hey, here’s an idea game industry?

You want to get gamers back on your side?

Get rid of “patch culture”!

You see, patch-culture needs to be done away with entirely. Patches have done more to encourage lazy game development than anything else today, and a good example is Assassin’s Creed: Unity. When that game shipped, it was so buggy that it was almost unplayable — they sold the game when it wasn’t even ready to be in alpha. Because why shouldn’t they? People will buy it, and then we can just patch it later. Aliens: Colonial Marines suffered from the same issue, being released well before it was ready and then actually finishing development after millions had already bought and beaten it. While it’s true that these games are essentially fixed now and perfectly enjoyable, that wasn’t true at launch, or for almost a year after. The combined patch files had a megabyte count that rivaled the weight of the original games. This is also (frighteningly) the WHOLE POINT of Steam Early Access, which I really wish wasn’t a thing to begin with for these same reasons. 

DLC, by the same token, has essentially become microtransactions, and many triple A games can essentially charge double the game’s price in DLC alone when much of that content amounts to cosmetics and maybe a new weapon here or there (Borderlands 2 is a prime example of this). DLC at its best serves as a full expansion that legitimately improve the base game in hugely quantifiable ways, and then, at the opposite end of the scale, DLC does more or less the opposite, making you question why it even has a price tag. 

Adding pre-orders and “Season Passes” (i.e; pre-orders for DLC) on makes it even more insulting to the consumer, essentially asking us to buy content that hasn’t even been released yet and may or may not even be ANNOUNCED YET, which is actually a pretty sizable gamble for most gamers who don’t have Donald Trump’s budget.

I miss proper expansions that effectively doubled the in game content, like Blizzard’s “Warcraft III: Frozen Throne” or “StarCraft: Brood War”. Elder Scrolls Online has stuck to the old MMO mainstays of periodical expansions, and while the reviews for these expansions haven’t been exactly glowing so far, it’s not for lack of trying on ZeniMax’s part; it just kind of feels like they haven’t quite cracked the right balance yet, but I’m confident they will, given time.

For all our gripes about Destiny, at least it never pretends that the Eververse Trading Company is anything but what it is: spend real money, get dances. It’s completely honest, completely optional, and has made Bungievision a fair chunk of dough they probably wouldn’t have otherwise gotten. It doesn’t masquerade as DLC, or an expansion, or indeed as anything meaningful or useful. Quite simply, this honest approach to microtransactions has helped many players accept it. Destiny also deserves credit for having a notably horrid expansion in The Dark Below (as mentioned in the linked video). Most of that was that it just didn’t offer enough content to justify that mondo $20 asking price, but like Horse Armor was for Oblivion, TDB served as a lesser herald of greater successors, and House of Wolves and The Taken King have made huge steps to improve on the failures of TDB and substantially remake Destiny into the game we’d been promised in the beginning. Elder Scrolls Online also deserves special mention here: the Crown Store is essentially the same thing, though it also features an in-game portal for quick purchase of expansion packs.

All of this is yet another list of reasons why I love CD Projekt Red and The Witcher III — it is a shining example of how amazing games can be even when they defy many of the conventions of patch culture that big publishers try to convince us are necessary for a quality gaming experience today. While the Witcher III has seen its share of patches and DLC, the patches tweak and enhance the product (rather than “fix” issues because the vast majority of those got nabbed during beta testing), the DLCs are by and large free, they add to the experience in very noticeable and positive ways, and the two major expansions basically add a whole second game to the one you were already playing. It’s patches and DLCs and expansion packs finally done correctly once again, in the gaming ways of old.

So if the industry can’t get rid of patch culture, they should at least strive to emulate CD Projekt Red in all things.

And, on another seperate but wholly related note: cut the bullshitting, game industry. You can call a pig a horse all you want, but we still have eyes and can see when you’re lying. So stop lying; you only alienate customers and make yourself look bad in doing so, and if you’re very, VERY lucky, you’ll look stupid sooner rather than later. Just be honest. Tell people what you’re really doing and why. We won’t hate you for being honest. Nobody will go “OH MY GOD THIS IS HORRIBLE I WISH THEY’D SPUN AN INCREDIBLY ELABORATE LIE ABOUT THIS INSTEAD BECAUSE THE TRUTH BURNS SO BAD”.

Be like Bungie or ZeniMax if you MUST include these sorts of elements (I stress again that it would be better if you didn’t, but you’re probably not going to change just because I said so). Just be honest about the trivial DLCs and microtransactions. You’ll get more dollars by being honest. “We have a store where you can spend real money on some freaky-deeky awesome dances and costumes” is far better for winning our approval (and therefore money) than vaguely and dodgingly worded promises that “We have a store in which you can spend real money for additional content that will continually redefine your in-game experience”.

The first is honesty. The second is patently bullshit, and you should not do that.

And don’t even get started on pay-to-win. I promise to disown any studio that engages in that crap.

So here’s the TL;DR:

1) Finish your game before release. Delay if necessary. We’d rather our game be late and complete than on time and full of holes. Trust me, we will be understanding about this.

2) Use online updates sparingly and only if absolutely necessary. Nobody likes trying to boot up our game only to be greeted with a mandatory update page. Addendum: GET YOUR PATCH SIZES UNDER CONTROL GUYS. Download caps are still a thing for a hefty chunk of us and we’d prefer we not hit that after one or two mandatory updates, kthxbai.

3) Make your DLC and expansions mean something, or don’t charge for it at all.

4) Put WAY LESS EMPHASIS on preorders and season passes. Of course, you wouldn’t have to if you just followed tip number one to begin with. Preordering anything is a huge risk for a gamer, and we often wind up getting burned by unfinished or buggy products for our trouble.

5) Do not, under any circumstances, do any of the following: lie, swindle, con, “improve the truth”, spin, mislead, use vagueries in marketing materials, or otherwise try to pull the wool over the eyes of gamers. There are far more of us than there are of you and we WILL GODDAMN NOTICE.

6) Be honest about what you do and why you do it. We’re an understanding bunch and we get that you’re out to make money. As long as you’re being honest, and not a snake-oil-salesman (as covered in the previous bullet point), we’ll probably still happily buy your silly dances and extra costumes for fifty to ninety nine cents each.

7) Respect your customers. This is what you wind up doing when you follow the previous six bullets. And when customers feel respected, they will be more inclined to respect you. With their wallets.

Happy gaming, guys and gals!

A little night poetry

A little night poetry is all I need
Some words that don’t run wild
To give my mind a focus
to keep it from behaving like a child
Give me some composition: words with multitudes of meaning
For without such regimented wordstuffs my thoughts are endless streaming.

A little night poetry is all I desire
Some structure here and there
For mine mind screams so loudly
I am barred from my own dream’s lair
Give me order and sanity in this latest hour of the night
I pray to the gods “Please let me sleep! I don’t want to watch the rising light!”

A little night poetry is everything I crave
The words just cannot end
It’s either that or the cacophony
So with words my time I’ll spend.
Just under my hair and skin is a world of maddest thoughts
I just want to fall asleep now, here, upon this plot.

A little night poetry has given me clarity and scope
I did not sleep at all till morning so dashed was my fondest hope
But it was never a single night wasted, not here under the moon
There’s always tomorrow evening, so I’ll pray that I sleep soon.

Oh the joys of playing a Medic. In Skyrim.

I’ve just made a brand new Skyrim character the other day to celebrate (very nearly) 4 years of play (has it been that long?).
I’ve made almost every character type under the sun in that time, except one: a noncombatant.

Hence, my new character is just such a woman. Enter, Tiraali Ralvedren of Mournhold.

Tiraali is a doctor. A woman of medicine and mending. She’s not the fighting sort.
She is also exceedingly difficult to play.

As a Dunmer Alchemist and Restoration mage, she has very weak offensive abilities, but she CAN sneak around slipping people fatal poisons when she needs to do damage, or more often sics a follower on what’s attacking her and while she heals her allies from behind.

Or she just runs.

Even on the easiest difficulty, she is the most challenging character I’ve ever played on this game.

It’s interesting playing a non combat character who honestly NEEDS a bodyguard. She ventures out to collect alchemical ingredients, not for adventure or glory. She’d rather stay home, reading her books and brewing medicines. She’s a doctor — she lives to help people, not hurt them.

Almost everyone in this game is out for themselves or their clan — and here’s my character who utterly has no ego in this equation. She’s just trying to help as many people as she can.

I loved slipping into her thought processes almost as soon as the game began. Confusion at being arrested, terror at her impending execution, wondering “why me? What did I do to these people?”

Hiding behind Ralof every step of the way during her escape, too scared to fight (and rubbish at it), she probably couldn’t stop whimpering and asking “why me?”; and when she sees the torture chambers under Helgen, she’s overcome with absolute disgust as torture and the prolonging of suffering is the absolute antithesis of everything she stands for.

At first, she’s eager to join the Stormcloaks after seeing these Imperial atrocities, only to find the Stormcloaks are no better (and in her specific case as a Dark Elf, arguably worse). She breaks down a little inside because Ralof was so kind to her but his comrades couldn’t be more horrible to her, before eventually discovering the College of Winterhold and finding a place where she truly feels like she belongs.

While there, she beefed up on her Alteration and lllusion schools of magic so she’d be less defenseless when on her own, but she won’t harm any creature if she can help it. She still sticks close to other travelers she meets on the road for as long as she can for protection, only parting ways when they divert from the road to her destination. And she invariably keeps either a close friend better suited to combat or a hired mercenary for additional protection.

All in all, it’s a very different take on Skyrim. There’s a lot of stuff she passes up because it’s too dangerous, or it doesn’t agree with her moral code. She’s not very wealthy because she’s not willing to do illegal or unsavory things to pad her funds, and if she accidentally commits a crime, she submits without struggle.

Part of what fascinates me is that she’s essentially the kind of average NPC bystander that you walk past all the time in this game — the ones peddling their wares for whatever they can get, the ones who flee as quickly as they can when a dragon turns up.

Tiraali isn’t some grand mystic hero — she’s one of the helpless terrorized rabble of Skyrim that get trodden upon by everything that’s stronger than they are (which is quite a lot of things).

In essence, I am playing as the little guys that “real heroes” seem to either ignore or dump all the crap they find in the field on, leaving us without a single septim to spend.

Destiny calls to her, and Tiraali answers back “Destiny sounds REALLY DANGEROUS. I think I’ll just stay here. Indoors. Brewing my potions and medicines– oh crap I’m out of ingredients again and Arcadia doesn’t get her next shipment in for a couple of days. Um… Mercurio, we’re going out –much as I hate doing that– to get some ingredients. Let’s avoid all conflict and/or run-ins with Destiny, shall we? Sound good? Awesome. Please keep me from dying.